The chorus of bitching and moaning started weeks ago for most New Yorkers.
“Ugh, the traffic will be insane. The tourists will be everywhere. All the bar and clubs will be packed.”
Apparently New Yorkers have forgotten why they live here. Denizens of Gotham are an intelligent bunch, but every so often, we lose our collective perspective and find a need to unnecessarily complain about something. The parades. Santa Con. New Year’s Eve. It never ends.
Before we get to the Super Bowl, count me among those who enjoy living in a city where it’s socially acceptable to dress up like the fictional fat man and gallivant down Gansevoort in a drunken stupor. People live in New York for the craziness, the social scene, the constant action, and special events. Complaining about events that make the five boroughs so unique runs contradictory to why someone would live here in the first place. You want peace and quiet 365 a year, move to Montana.
This week’s city scourge is, of course, Super Bowl XLVIII. The aforementioned complaints have echoed for weeks, reaching a fever pitch these past few days. America’s most popular and successful professional sports league chooses New York (and New Jersey) for the site of it’s yearly spectacle, and all people want to do is complain. Rather than embrace Super Bowl week, people are avoiding it like the plague, including many who consider themselves hard core sports fans. It’s baffling and makes hypocrites of those who claim to love the New York energy but hate weeks like this.
I’ve never been in a Super Bowl city during the big game before, never mind one where the television stages and fan experience exhibits are within a mile of my apartment. I took an opportunity on Monday—projected as the warmest day of the week—to walk to Herald Square, up Broadway a.k.a. Super Bowl Boulevard, and into Times Square. Here’s what I encountered:
–ESPN was broadcasting live from their set in Herald Square. It could have been NFL Live. Could have been NFL Now. Could have been NFL Mid-Afternoon. One of those or something like it. Suzy Kolber was anchoring, with Adam Schefter, Chris Mortensen, and Bill Polian next to her. Let’s count down the top three things I was hoping would happen:
3. Schefter would stand up. He seems like the kind of guy who’s 5’4” and I really wanted to find out in person.
2. Polian would turn around. I would have rubbed my cheeks and made a “crybaby” gesture.
1. Kolber would look at me and wink. It’s hard to believe she’s 49 years old. She looks 39, if not 29. Seeing her in person, it’s hard to blame Joe Namath.
–The worldwide leader’s arrangement effectively stands out as the highlight of the intersection without being a monstrosity. It’s right in front of the famous Macy’s store, which is a major foot traffic area in the heart of Midtown. Yet, there weren’t that many people by the set. Maybe 50 total were behind the glass, most on their phones, waving like idiots while imploring their friends and families to turn on ESPN and look for them between the Jewish guy and the light haired guy who looks like a frog. You’d have to think as the week goes on, ESPN’s real estate will see more and more activity. It’s a nice set and leaves viewers with a backdrop not only of the square, but with a long look down Broadway.
–The smell in Midtown was, um, unique. Herald Square was filled with that awful peanut smell. Not the good kind like near the fresh Nuts 4 Nuts stands. But old peanuts that’d been sitting out for days, mixed with fumes from the production trucks, traffic, and foreigners. Not to mention there was week-old, multi-colored snow turning to slush because it was 40 degrees out, mixed with extra traffic and congestion. Sure, I had those infamous Bobby Knight “game faces” going every couple blocks, but it’s Super Bowl week, so you deal with it.
–Construction crews were still in the midst of building all the exhibits on Super Bowl Boulevard. I’m sure if they could have shut down Broadway even an hour earlier on Monday morning, they would have. Block after block, there was something to look at. The Xbox Zone. The Autograph and Concert Stage. One long stretch with tall yard markers on a pseudo field. I’ll have to check it out again later in the week to see the completed activities.
–Crossing the street was more difficult than usual, but it wasn’t a nuisance. I went north on Broadway from 34th into Times Square and ended up stopping at a light on every single street. I’m not positive that the city shifted traffic light timing because of Broadway being closed, but it sure seemed like it. It’s rare to see the streets (i.e. roads going east-west) get the green lights for such an extended period of time. Usually green lights for the streets last about half the time they do for the avenues (i.e. major north-south thoroughfares a la Broadway). With the avenue being shut off to traffic, the streets have been gifted with the extra time, and rightfully so. It’s not the worst thing in the world for pedestrians to stop at the end of each block, get their bearings, and have a second to admire the attraction on that street. It’s unfortunate for those in a hurry, but no big deal for those trying to take it all in.
–While the Bristol boys have a measured set in Herald Square, Fox has set up a behemoth in Times Square. Picture a Revolutionary War-era fortress, only with lights, cameras, TV sets, and Terry Bradshaw’s Louisiana drawl. Proportionally, it’s not outlandish, however, considering that the grandeur of Times Square far outweighs that of Herald Square. But TKTS, a prominent Times Square landmark, looks like a five-floor walkup next to the One57 feel of the Fox set.
–With tourists taking over the city, specifically Midtown, picture requests will be at an all time high. The moment I stepped foot in the area behind the ESPN set, I had a guy tap me on the shoulder and ask to take his picture. He wanted it taken next to a Super Bowl street sign, which is fine, except that having a picture taken in front of the TV set during a live broadcast seems like a more compelling photo. Maybe he tried but was squashed by ESPN security. Either way, the immortal dilemma of “Flash on or off?” has planted its flag for the week.
The activities open up tomorrow, the game is on Sunday, and after that, it’ll just be a steady stream of annoyed locals telling tourists, “Take the E train to Sutphin Boulevard and hop on the tram to JFK.” Come Monday, the same New Yorkers who cursed the city, the game, and the sport of football for weeks will be bragging that their city hosted the greatest Super Bowl week ever and that the NFL should have it here every five years.
Before we get to that point, though, here’s hoping that the majority of New Yorkers realize the potential once in a lifetime opportunity they’ve been given: Their city is hosting the Super Bowl.